Hundreds of protesting slum dwellers from the riverine areas of Lagos State, under the auspices of Nigerian Slum/Informal Settlement Federation on Monday held Government House and the state House of Assembly hostage for several hours to protest the planned demolition of their settlements by the state government.
The protesters, who were chanting different solidarity songs, almost overwhelmed the security operatives thus leading to the blockage of the entrance that led to the government house and the state house of assembly.
They had stormed the government house at about 10am on and insisted that the Governor should attend to them before they leave the premises.
The protesters said in a statement titled, “Call For Dialogue With Government On Alternatives To Eviction Through Partnership On Security And Development,” that if the government wishes to fight crime and insecurity, evictions are not the answer.
They added in the statement, jointly signed by Mr. Akinrolabu Samuel and Mrs. Bimbo Oshobe that their vigilante group helps to patrol their communities and handover apprehended suspects to police.
“Evictions do not make Lagos safer. Instead, they push the urban poor into deeper poverty through homelessness and loss of livelihood. Worsened poverty only exacerbates crime. Evictions are not the answer. We need to partner to find lasting solutions to insecurity.
“Lagos is a megacity by virtue of its population. We are part of that population. If we are to become a centre of excellence, we cannot try to make the urban poor in our midst disappear. We will not disappear. But with support and partnership from government, we can continue developing our communities through in situ slum upgrading and social housing,” the statement read.
The protesters added that their federation has already profiled 40 of the affected waterfront communities, which they said are home to a total estimated population of over ‘300,000 hardworking, law abiding residents.
“As we continue profiling additional waterfront communities, our hope is that these efforts are not in order for us to be able to number the newly homeless. Instead, we hope this community-generated data can help us to partner with Government toward a better tomorrow,” they said.
Addressing the protesters after six hours they stormed the Assembly, the Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa said he heard their complaints as the representative of the people of Lagos State, adding that it is part of the job of government to ensure that nobody suffers, and that their government is a government of the people.
“We did not know about this before, but we will tell the Governor to reconsider it. The government would not do anything without considering people.
“We have been organising meetings to know what the people want. We want you to go home now without fighting. Stubbornness cannot solve the matter, we will invite the necessary people and ensure that justice is done. We will do our job as arbiters and look at the way forward. Let us do the right thing and we will take a positive step on it,” he said.
The Speaker promised that people would be sent to the communities to confirm their claims, adding that they would act quickly so that their house would not be demolished.
Obasa said, “We will look at the issue of the schools of your children since the government wants all our children to have education. We will continue to protect your interest and commit it into the hands of the necessary committees. I want you to go back home in peace without taking to violence”.